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Wanderer Open at West Oxfordshire Sailing Club

by Adam Wickenden & Philip Meadowcroft 29 Apr 2022 06:42 BST 23-24 April 2022
Wanderers at West Oxfordshire SC © Vicky King

It's not usually this windy here they claimed. Hmmmm.

The Wanderer fleet heard the same thing last time they were at WOSC when Storm Hannah blew through. The brisk easterlies forecast only discouraged two entries from turning up, leaving five hardy crews to enjoy the delight of Wanderer racing and the Wanderer tradition of after sail food. Everybody (yes, everybody) also partook in the very un-Wanderer sport of swimming!

Oh, we also had a fleet of Wayfarers to dodge - it was their Southern Area championships. Their presence turned out to be very useful, starting five minutes before us. 'Follow the Wayfarers' became the best way of sussing out WOSC's complicated courses round its 11 basic blue cans, let alone different coloured buoys as special one-off marks.


We started with the Event Coordinator's 'build a Wanderer Challenge'. A long-term project, a bit like those magazines with model kits you see in newsagents. The idea is you slowly build a boat with the bits of 1541 "Black Mischief" that get forgotten on the way to each event. Strangely you can end up with both a boat and a traumatised cat hiding under the foredeck! This time it was the mainsheet, more on this later.

It didn't look that bad when we arrived to delicious bacon butties and some pleasant looking gusts flowing across the lake. The WOSC 'open water swimming club' were there for their daily constitutional. This included two ladies and a black Labrador. The Lab remained on the bank with the best bemused 'rather you than me' look that I have ever seen on a dog's face!

Race 1

Philip had managed to borrow a mainsheet from Ian Simpson. It was a little short, being a set of Enterprise jib sheets, so helming on the runs involved a stretch. Philip had also decided to take a relaxed approach to the event. Instead of helming, he decided to be 'chauffeured' around the course, with his crew helming, and would enjoy the scenery from the front of the boat. Under such circumstances flying the spinnaker was considered most uncivilised, and it was left ashore in its bag. Others took theirs however.

The OD set a course that involved the full expanse of the lake. WOSC is long and narrow. The wind was North Easterly and blowing diagonally across the lake, so the beats were rather short. We got two beats, two runs and a long deep reach down the full length of the lake.

A slightly port biased start line was set. No, you couldn't cross at the pin end on port, both 1541 and Chris King in 1575 "It Takes Two" considered this, but it wasn't going to work. Going left up the beat did work - 1541 led round the first mark, followed by Ian Simpson and Dave Bardwell in 1004 "Teazle".

The second beat took us up into the top corner of the lake. Go left again, right to the bank and tack. Just like sailing on the Thames for Philip. The top mark was very gusty, so much so that at some point during the race it caught out Chris King and they ended up swimming.

Then on to the long deep reach all the way down the lake. No one flew spinnakers in the Wanderers, though Mike McNamara did in the Wayfarers. Somewhere at the end of this run Richard Maltby and Mark Skipper (sailing Nick Hawkins' Hartley-built Wanderer) also tried swimming - splash 2!

There wasn't much place changing - 1541 was able to extend their lead. The short beats, though shifty, didn't seem to allow much opportunity to change places. Splitting tacks on the boat in front would result in you ending up on the wrong side of the beat. (I only saw it really work one, on Sunday, for Ian in 1004).

Now we must come to the unusual way WOSC finish races. WOSC use a transit line from their starting hut to finish boats. The leading boat, in this case (as every other race) Mike McNamara in his Wayfarer would be finished. Then every boat subsequently crossing the line, no matter which fleet, would be finished. As the lead Wayfarers would start to lap the Wanderer fleet this means the back Wanderers would be finished, while the leading boats, not yet lapped, would have to sail almost another lap before finishing.

In this race only the lead two boats 1541 and 1004 had not been caught by the lead Wayfarer before it finished. At this point Ian Simpson formulated a cunning plan. Everyone had to capsize at some point in the day, and he had no way of catching 1541. So, get the capsize in when it would not affect their position. 1004 was thus the last boat to cross the finish line, a bit full of water, but still counting a second place.

Race 2

Lunch was a tasty bake of chorizo, lentils, tomato, and cheese. Time to sort out the mainsheet problem on 1541. The jib sheets have always been a bit too long. Much too long in fact, we believe they may have been previously owned by Cunard White Star Line! So, we swapped the jib and borrowed mainsheet around. Problem solved, jib sheets now a bit short for a Wanderer, but should be OK. Oh dear... (see later).

Off we set. No one tried to be clever. 1541 nearly ran out of line at the pin end, however both the start and first beat was nice and clean for all - if rather brisk thanks to the easterly breeze. 1541 lead around first mark again, followed by Ian Simpson and the now dried out Chris King.

It was getting even gustier by this point, WOSC Commodore Mike Bellew and Stephen Clampin (good to see Stephen back in a Wanderer) were undone by one of the bigger gusts and retired wet having broken their tiller.

It was all looking very comfortable for 1541, safely ahead of Ian Simpson in 1004. Now, remember the bit about the jib sheets being a bit short? The Race Officer had set a short close reach between the end of the first run and the second beat. It was on this we were hit by a huge gust. Philip decided that at this point the view would be better from the 'promenade deck' and joined me on the side to help keep the boat flat. Unfortunately, he forgot to bring the jib sheets with him. "Umm, Phil, let the jib out.... NOW!" Yes, a Wanderer will capsize with the jib pinned in and the main flapping. We ended up on our side with the mast tip in the mud. WOSC is very shallow, I could have sworn the boat was only just on its side.

I was just inspecting the rust stains from Philip's self-bailers when 'Whoosh' - Philip auto-inflated. No, not 'auto-inflated' due to a second helping of Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Wanderer fleet dinner - his new lifejacket went off!

After much struggle we got the mast out of the mud and the boat up. Philip claims this is the first time he has capsized in "Black Mischief". Given the interesting collection of floating objects the rescue boat returned to us - bailer, glove, tennis ball, towbar ball cover - I can believe that. Whatever... that was the end of our race.

Ian Simpson won, Chris King and Drew Hines-Lindo were second and Richard and Mark third. Everyone has by now capsized, and it's only race 2!

Race 3

Afternoon tea beckoned- irresistible sticky chocolate cake and fruit cake -between races 2 and 3. We set about the twin problems of securing longer jib sheets, and deflating Philip. The first we achieved, the second task we failed at. As Philip was comfortably ensconced in the warmth of the clubhouse we let him be, and I set off with Mike Bellew as crew.

The wind had dropped a little, still strong though. A reduced fleet of 4 boats set out. Very kindly the Race Officer only made us sail for 30 minutes. No one saw fit to go swimming and we all finished in good order, ready for the evening Wanderer fleet supper at The Blue Boar down the road in Longworth where fourteen of us ate for England in typical Wanderer style.

Thanks to Mike Bellew for standing in for Philip in Race 3 and putting up with my inability to remember how to tack an aft mainsheet boat.


Less wind, cold, and sunny. We all arrived looking forward to 2 back-to-back races run by Tony Thresher (he of wooden Enterprise and Solo fame). Mike Bellew and Stephen Clampin decided that as they were still missing their tiller they would sit the day's events out.

Philip Meadowcroft, now suitably deflated, had managed to acquire a third set of jib sheets. These were supplied by Mike McNamara and had fancy tapered bits on the end. Not only this, Philip was very enamoured of their soft and fluffy nature, and vowed to acquire some for himself. So dear Wanderer sailor, if you spot our Events Coordinator in a chandlery lovingly caressing ropes to test their softness, worry not!

Race 4 Otherwise entitled: 'Capsizing is so very yesterday!'

The wind direction, if not the strength, was the same as Saturday. Tony set a similar course, adding one short extra beat, making it 3 per laps. Spinnakers looked possible, Ian and Dave were chafing at the bit with theirs, and the Wayfarer fleet were flying theirs with varying degrees of success.

1541 tried a port tack start, not really a success, and annoyed a few of the others. Ian Simpson in 1004 got to the first mark in the lead. Richard and Mark in 1772 ended up in second place as 1541 managed to further embarrass themselves by hitting the mark.

We were able to pass Richard and Mark on the second beat. Technique, as on Saturday, was to go right to the bank and aim for the Port lay line - Starboard lay line tending to be in a hole.

We didn't see what happened, but on looking back from the windward mark Chris and Drew in 1575 were seen to be on their side by the bank. I guess a big header just as they were about to tack did for them. They righted, and eventually finished fourth , albeit taking some time to get the water out. They were the only Wanderer to swim on the Sunday (the Wayfarer fleet however....).

Ian and Dave in 1004 were steadily creeping away. We tried threatening their position and on a couple of beats almost did so, but Ian and Dave held their nerve. As on Saturday the short beats and the nature of the shifts meant splitting tacks didn't work.

The combination of 3 short beats and runs, plus a long broad reach down the lake meant dodging Wayfarers was the order of the day. Generally, if they were flying spinnakers 'avoid' was the best course of action, otherwise you'd end up in a huge wind shadow. One was even spotted trawling WOSC with its spinnaker for whatever fish there were.

Richard and Mark in 1772 came to the line third.

Race 5

With all to play for with 1004 "Teazle" and 1541"Black Mischief" on equal points after discard for Ian and Dave had the bit between their teeth, would the "Teazle" spinnaker appear? Port biased line again. Stuck being backwinded by 1004, Richard and Mark in 1772 went for an early tack. This only resulted in a 720 as they'd failed to spot 1575 on Starboard just above them.

Adam and Phil made a determined dash from the line and were first at the windward mark pursued by 1004. Now, remember I said the splitting tacks generally didn't seem to work. Well, it did on the second beat, with 1004 arriving at the mark in the lead. This they held all the way down the long broad reach until 1541 was able to gain an inside overlap at the leeward mark. Both were to stay close until the start of the second lap. This time splitting tacks didn't work and 1004 dropped back about 50yards as a result. Overall victory was in sight !

There was now no excuse. As we looked back as we headed down the length of the long reach from one end of the lake to the other a flurry of activity was seen in 1004. The spinnaker, in all its multicolour glory blossomed and they did seem to gain, but not enough. The spinnaker was a new toy for Dave Bardwell having successfully bid for it in last month's auction created by Andy Peter in aid of Ukraine.

As the race approached its end an unusual side effect of WOSC's finishing system came into play. Mike McNamara was beginning to lap the Wanderer fleet in the lead Wayfarer. As he passed 1004 the discussion in 1541 turned to 'Is the OD about to finish - do we slow down and let Mike pass so we don't have to do another lap?' 1541 sailed through the finish about 50 meters ahead of the Wayfarer and thus had to complete an extra lap to all the other Wanderers. The winning Wanderer thus became the last boat on the water to finish. We also noticed that just as Mike Mac finished a Wayfarer further down the fleet capsized and ended up with its mast stuck in the mud. Oh, how embarrassing would it be to end up in the same situation. Fortunately, this didn't happen because we sailed that last lap very carefully indeed and avoided any risk-taking.

Richard and Mark in 1772, having recovered from their post start 720 to overhaul Chris King, ended up third.

A load of gratitude is owed to the members of the resourceful West Oxfordshire SC, in particular to Mike Lewington and Mike Bellew, for hosting our first event of the 2022 season in such a cheerful and friendly way and to the challenges faced by the Saturday and Sunday Race Officers, Simon and Tony, and the support boat crews, and those great folk in the galley.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
11541Adam WickendenPhilip MeadowcroftSilver Wing SC & Henley SC1(dnf)1215
21004Ian SimpsonDave BardwellTudor SC212126
31772Richard MaltbyMark SkipperWhitstable YC5333312
41575Chris KingDrew Hines‑Lindo 4244414
5676Mike BellewStephen ClampinWOSC3(dnf)(dns)(dns)(dns)21

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